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back to article Report says PRISM snooped on India's space, nuclear programs

NSA spooks risk alienating yet another US ally after new documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden apparently revealed extensive surveillance of Indian domestic politics as well as the country’s nuclear and space programs. The top secret document, obtained by The Hindu, suggests American spying activity in the sub- …

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Facepalm

Is there anything PRISM didn't get?!

Perhaps they have something useful like a list of all my mate's birthdays as I'm useless at remembering to write them down somewhere.

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Go

I'm still waiting for them to respond to my request

For a picture of my old goldfish, Mr Wiggly, who passed away some time ago. Hoping they have a copy they can send me for posterity.

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Boffin

Re: I'm still waiting for them to respond to my request

Dear Mr G E

With regard to your recent request allow me to express the sympathies of the Agency over the passing of your dear friend Mr Wiggly.

However you will appreciate that with the appointment of the Civil Liberties & Privacy Officer the Agency are making increased efforts to protect the rights of individuals to freedom from intrusive state surveillance. As such, while I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any photographs of Mr Wiggly in the Agency's data warehouses, I can assure you that we would never breach his privacy without prior consent.

I understand this may present you with a minor problem in obtaining any such consent from beyond the grave. However our colleagues at DARPA are working on one or two things that may help with this and I will keep you posted (on the QT naturally!) as to any developments in this area. In the meantime please make sure that Mr Wiggly is NOT defrosted as this may impair any future efforts.

Respectfully,

Lt. Gen. K. Alexander

Director NSA

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Spying on India you say

Is this really a surprise what with the little tiff they have going on with Pakistan and skirmishes with China? This is the type of spying I expect the NSA to be doing as part of its mandate.

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Re: Spying on India you say

Thinking this one through what they might have thought is that

• with India being one of the States that has Nuclear weapons

• space programs could be converted over to ICBM usage

then thought, ah, so, this might be an area of interest.

Now then, now then, obviously they will have sat around and waited for an Indian freedom of information hero such as Ed to appear and tell them everything. Then they may have just got a bit impatient ……

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Re: Spying on India you say

Cant say I blame the NSA for this one. Given that of all the nuclear players India and Pakistan are the most likely to actually find a rationale to use their nukes on each other I'd be keeping a close eye on them too. Allies be damned.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nukes, you say

India and Pakistan are the most likely to actually find a rationale to use their nukes on each other

Even if that were true, which, at least for India, it is almost certainly not, what the hell would that have to do with America?

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Re: Spying on India you say

This is where this whole issue becomes very important. There are some things that any sensible country will try to keep secret, and which any other sensible country will try to find out. India, at least because of its rather fractious neighbour, will try to keep a lot of its actions secret, whilst any other country will want to know what India is capable of doing with its nukes and space-capable tech.

This is sensible, and appropriate, use of intelligence gathering, and it would be remiss of (at least) the other nuclear-capable nations that might get dragged in to an escalating conflict not to do it. However, it throws the Belgacom spying issue into sharp relief, since any perceived risk is trivial. This is the importance of Snowden's leaks - that the intelligence agencies are overstepping the bounds of reasonableness.

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Re: Nukes, you say

"Even if that were true, which, at least for India, it is almost certainly not, what the hell would that have to do with America?"

Given that half the worlds companies that pay huge volumes of tax dollars to their respective governments (yes even in the US) have sites in India a reasonable case can be made for making it America's (and others) business.

Just consider what a set of tit for tat nuke exchanges would do to places like Pune, Chennai etc. Hell half the FTSE and NYSE infrastructure (IT, Finance etc) operations are in India these days.

And thats just the business dimension. As others mentioned the political dimension is just as significant. No-one wants to get dragged into another Asian conflict - but this time with Nukes. Then considering the people dimension - again how many americans are Asian Ex-pats or 1st gen US citizens - enough to cause some element of distablisation of the US domestic scene - even if only through tit for tat localised violence against each other - rather than something organised like terrorism.

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Re: Nukes, you say

"Even if that were true, which, at least for India, it is almost certainly not, what the hell would that have to do with America?"

Have you ever read "On the Beach"? It gives a number of good reasons why.

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Big Brother

Another brick in the wall.

Looks like the NSA just declared war against the rest of the world.

Perhaps the above is a little hyperbolic but given the revelations provided by Edward Snowden what does that say about the accountability that is supposed to be enshrined in the US Constitution?

The use of secret courts with no visible oversight by anyone plus the seemingly illegal activities of the NSA appear to show an organisation that is running completely out of control. If, the reports in the Hindu are to be believed, rather than using the NSA'a capability to track down and stop terrorists it is being used to snoop on the internal discussions of an "ally" and to gain commercial advantage for the US. So where are the "checks and balances" that we are told are part and parcel of the way things are done in the USA?

Nowhere.

No wonder the US government tried so hard to keep all this quite. It could be with all this spying, double speak and plain lying that the US has just pulled out the worlds largest foot gun and fired it.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Another brick in the wall.

the USA as an Ally is like having a tiger as a pet..

Sure it might be strong and could defend you against your enemies, but if it gets hungry it will eat you alive...

Would I trust the US Government? not a chance.

Would I trust my government (GB)? definitely not with the current idiots in power!

Why oh why are politicians usually prats?

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Re: Another brick in the wall.

Looks like the NSA just declared war against the rest of the world.

Everyone spies on their friends.

Every Government in the world spies on their allies

That's how they (think) know they're their allies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Another brick in the wall.

Yeah, but I'm still waiting for the Snowden documents that show how they spied on a dangerous terrorist network and stopped an actual attack.

Seems they've been doing everything else except for that one thing they use to justify all this.

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Re: Another brick in the wall.

It may be time to mention that the USNSA and its Five Eyes associates and others are agencies within their respective countries' defense establishment and are concerned with a much wider range of activities than terrorism. Terrorism gets a lot of headlines, but probably represents a rather small part of overall signals intelligence activity, although it likely has been used to support enlargement of data collection and analysis capabilities, especially over the last 12 years.

Governments seek and use various kinds of intelligence products for purposes ranging from estimating and anticipating other countries' treaty negotiating objectives to identifying conditions likely to result in wars that may or may not involve them to formulation of military contingency plans for action under a variety of circumstances -- and identifying external or internal threats such as terrorist attacks.

And yes, allies spy on each other; only the clueless think otherwise.

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Re: Another brick in the wall.

@tom dial:

That makes too much sense, surely you are an NSA operative and are part of the effort to get the conspiracy theorists going to distract attention from the real objectives.

>Yeah, but I'm still waiting for the Snowden documents that show how they spied on a dangerous terrorist network and stopped an actual attack.

Come now AC, we all know that no such documents exist and it is all security theater. Most terrorists are so incompetent they are likelier to kill themselves (or each other) by accident than complete the mission (if they even can keep straight what the goal is).

As a topical example, is the Kenya incident all that different from the mass shootings the USA has experienced lately? A bunch of disenfranchised idiots running amok - and I mean that in the original, Malay sense of the word - seems to be a better explanation and sadly part of the darker bits of our human nature.

>Everyone spies on their friends.

Almost, oolor has no FB, he waits for his friends to spill the beans that they wouldn't ever post and does so by not asking about said things. Oh the things people will tell you if [you just shut up and pretend] you don't care.

>Why oh why are politicians usually prats?

Because the rest of us have real things to take care of, money to make, etc. while they have to try ever harder to show they are needed when clearly they are not. Attracts a certain type.

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Re: nematoad

>what does that say about the accountability that is supposed to be enshrined in the US Constitution?

That it is the same myth as when the country was founded. While I think that the US Constitution is an excellent document and ideal, reality often doesn't reflect as clearly as water (even turbulent water). Life, like the Constitution is what one makes of it. It is up to one to stand up for those ideals and rights therein, though it seems like the status quo is more comforting for most. Insert your own version of Franklin's words regarding liberty and safety here.

>If, the reports in the Hindu are to be believed

Strangely, in this instance they are believable.

>used to snoop on the internal discussions of an "ally" and to gain commercial advantage for the US

Yes, commercial advantage over India of all countries... unless you mean making sure they don't take too much advantage of the inability to impose intellectual property rights. You do know that in the past this task was left to CIA operatives doing the snooping in person? As others have pointed out below, this is standard operating procedure and has been for longer than most of us have been alive.

>So where are the "checks and balances" that we are told are part and parcel of the way things are done in the USA?

These only apply within the country, and it is an ongoing issue that is going to come to many heads, though I highly doubt heads will roll.

>Nowhere.

Of course not, you made that part up right after proving that the NSA is out of control by collecting information about other countries with very serious weapons capabilities (not to mention a very fucked-up internal situation as it is not exactly one predominant group like China).

>hyperbolic

Circuitous is a better word to describe your thesis.

>all this spying, double speak and plain lying

Ah, you mean diplomatese, kind of like how one acts towards relatives, co-workers, and neighbours that are ornery but worth keeping a civil relationship with.

I am aware, very aware. And as such I will not pretend that just because computers are being used it is any different than antiquity. Perhaps, much more disturbing is the fact that human nature is what it always was and always will be. Even with all our abilities to access and weight information like never before, the emotional pathways in the brain are very easily triggered by the media, politicians, and special interest groups preying on our fears and greed to prevent us from thinking it through and realizing we don't need them.

This is precisely why I will not be afraid and definitely not very afraid.

Fear not, but cover your ass.

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Re: Another brick in the wall. @ tom dial

"... the USNSA and its Five Eyes associates and others are agencies within their respective countries' defense establishment and are concerned with a much wider range of activities than terrorism."

And yet, they are dragging in millions, if not billions, of interactions between people of no interest every day. This is the basis of dissatisfaction that many of us have - this whole thing is sold as "it is keeping you safe from terrorism". Well, it isn't, and the risk is less than trivial anyway. Governments should not be allowed to get away with the argument that, because intelligence-gathering is *sometimes* necessary, it is therefore *always* necessary. There needs to be a reasoned debate about where the balance lies between appropriate and inappropriate intelligence gathering. Governments spying on each other, whilst dirty, is necessary. Governments spying on ordinary citizens is not necessary. Governments spying on private companies, or criminal organisations ... the balance is in that territory, somewhere.

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Re: Another brick in the wall @ Dazed and Confused

"Everyone spies on their friends."

I don't, and if I found a "friend" spying on me, they would no longer be my friend.

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Re: Another brick in the wall.

"Why oh why are politicians usually prats?"

Because prats get fired from real jobs.

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I think keeping an eye on their nuke program is warranted

After all, Bush Junior promised to feed them nuclear materials under the promise that it "wouldn't be used for military purposes", thus freeing up all the materials they already had for the military.

One really wants to know when the big one comes.

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Re: I think keeping an eye on their nuke program is warranted

When the big one comes it'll most likely be due to US interference in something that got out of hand, anyway

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Alert

Re: I think keeping an eye on their nuke program is warranted

After all, Bush Junior promised to feed them nuclear materials under the promise that it "wouldn't be used for military purposes",

Well, that was his stupid idea then.

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Anonymous Coward

After all, Bush Junior promised to feed them nuclear materials

You'ved misspeelled "nucular".

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Anonymous Coward

Less and less about terrorism, more and more about business espionage. It's colonisation by another name.

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"Less and less about terrorism, more and more about business espionage. It's colonisation by another name."

Colon-isation, I'd suggest. The NSA are up everybody's back passage.

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M7S
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Mushroom

Shouldn't GCHQ be doing this? After all we paid for it with our overseas aid....

Icon. Something that definitely won't be lobbed around the region by technology funded using our money.

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Joke

Do not get caught!

The biggest problem with spying - be it on allies, enemies, or citizens - is when you get caught!

That damned Snowden. If he hadn't come along no one would've known that their rights were being violated, allies wouldn't have known that we trust them as far as we can throw them (and, with our country-throwing technology shrined back in the 60's, that's not very far), and enemies would've been in the dark about our knowledge of them.

What's that? Snowden isn't releasing much about our spying on enemies? He's probably selling it to them! He's most certainly an enemy of freedom! He's a terrorist! Worse! He's a smart person with ideals *shudders*

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Anonymous Coward

paraphrasing Blackadder goes Fourth a bit

So it is OK if brave individual agents spy on other nations but not when machines are used?

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Holmes

Re: paraphrasing Blackadder goes Fourth a bit

You have a point. Spying (being up to date, trying to know what happens around us) is as old as man. The problem seems to be that we believed the internet is "private" and safe. Funny really. Anything that can be done will be tried, and when you think about it diplomats have always had their own "diplomatic" mail service, for obvious reasons. The machine has changed, we have not.

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FAIL

Pot, kettle

Is this the same India that insisted Blackberry give them a server to snoop on or be kicked out of the country?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/11/blackberry_gives_indian_spooks_access/

Or is this the same India that snoops illegally on their own ISPs?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/09/india_surveillance_intercept_isp_covert/

For once, I'm glad my taxes are paying for the NSA. I hope it really pisses the Indians off.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pot, kettle, Blackberry

India wanted to snoop on its own citizens' use of Blackberry. That might, or might not, be defensible, but it is hardly the same as another nation snooping on those citizens

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An observation

Reporting on NSA activities increasingly seems to be based on what amounts to hearsay. This article is an example, in that it reports that The Hindu claims to have obtained a top secret document showing certain spying activities targeted on India and Indian citizens. Neither the linked article nor the Register report appears to provide access to even a redacted version of the document that is claimed to exist, so there is no obvious way to judge the accuracy of the description given or even whether the document exists. The Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, and Spiegel (to name some) have many times provided such access, allowing interested readers to examine the document (although usually a redacted version) and form their own judgments.

This isn't a criticism of The Register, who have done their duty by citing The Hindu (in this case) and other publications as appropriate. However, when the citation trail leads to a dead end, the claim has roughly the same verifiable truth value as NSA statements that they are acting properly - not a very high standard. Judging comes down to a matter of who is more trustworthy, and I have no reason to trust Shobhan Saxena or The Hindu more or less than various US government officials when it comes to describing what the NSA does.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An observation

To be fair to TheHindu they did have poor copies of NSA US-984xx SIGAD generated heat-maps online which showed Hindustan as 'target number 5' in terms of data taken, billions of items.

Meanwhile *ALL* intelligence should be considered hearsay, specially in UK where RIPA tries to pretend that massive interception isn't carried out. (100% of "lawful interception" in UK is for the spooks, if the intel ever makes it to court then it's only ever considered as hearsay)

I purposefully at home and work automatically generate a large junk digital footprint, my PRISM footprint is false data, mostly - just work out which bit is really me

Keep up the good work chaps, ttfn

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I purposefully ... generate a large junk digital footprint

Don't you think that that might make you look interesting?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I purposefully ... generate a large junk digital footprint

at present I'm already on their list - having received an academic stuxnet in my research centre in 2007 - I've been laying out false crumbs ever since! I'm just waiting for the rest of the intertubes to similar obfuscate their data upto my level of paranoia!!

luckily the NSA are helpfully pushing everyone else in that direction!

and the fact remains that an in-q-tel maxwellian chiliad bayesian database seeded with junk-in, isn't worth the effort, arguably

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Anonymous Coward

Good

That's their job. Jesus christ people. They are an intelligence service. What exactly do you think they do? And guess what, The RAW does the same thing back to the US, although probably not as well.

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